Almost half of Brits think Boris Johnson eased coronavirus rules too soon: poll

Forty-six percent of British voters said they thought restrictions were lifted too early in an exclusive POLITICO poll.

Almost half of Brits think Boris Johnson eased coronavirus rules too soon: poll

Boris Johnson is determined to press ahead and lift coronavirus restrictions — but British voters aren’t so sure.

The U.K. government has come under fire from some scientists for ditching social distancing rules and mask mandates while COVID cases continued to soar on July 19. Initially billed as “freedom day” by elements of the media and some politicians, Johnson eventually struck a more cautious tone as he asked Brits not to treat the easing like a “great jubilee.”

However, an exclusive poll for POLITICO by Redfield and Wilton Strategies suggests Johnson may have moved too soon. Forty-six percent of the 1,500 respondents to the survey conducted on July 29 said it was “too soon” to lift restrictions, compared to 33 percent who thought it was the right time. Just 12 percent thought it was “too late.”

The findings also show that Brits largely remain wary of the virus, continuing to take a number of precautions whether required by law or not.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they would be likely to fully self-isolate if they came into contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus. This comes despite the U.K.’s “pingdemic,” which caused staff shortages in some industries due to high numbers of people being asked to isolate via contact tracing notifications from the National Health Service’s COVID app. Only 10 percent said they would be unlikely to isolate if asked.

Asked about precautions they had taken in the last month, 56 percent said they had worn a mask in settings where it was not required, 53 percent had avoided large public gatherings and 40 percent had avoided public transport. More than a third (36 percent) said they avoided pubs or restaurants, which have been open in some form in the U.K. since April, while a fifth said they avoided meeting family or friends.

The figure on masks will be of some comfort to government scientists, who continue to stress their importance despite mixed messages from ministers.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance — the U.K.’s most visible scientific experts throughout the pandemic — indicated on July 5 they would continue to wear masks after the July 19 rule change, while Johnson said it would “depend on the circumstances.”

One of his ministers, the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, said on July 4 he would stop wearing a mask when they were no longer legally required. When the government later released advice that said Brits are “expected and recommended” to keep wearing masks after a sharp rise in cases, Jenrick told the BBC he had said nothing of the sort.

Asked by the pollster who they trust more within the context of the coronavirus pandemic, 57 percent of respondents said they trust scientists advising the government more than they trust ministers. Just 1 percent said they trusted the politicians more.

Source : Politico EU More   

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Meet the EU’s newest president … Van Damme

The commissioners need a long summer break — and there's an obvious stand-in.

Meet the EU’s newest president … Van Damme

Pity the poor stand-in EU president. As revealed in Brussels Playbook this week, the rota for European commissioners to be in charge while everyone else goes on holiday makes grim reading for some of our unelected overlords.

At the time this piece gets published it’ll be Budget Commissioner Johannes “The Wrath Of” Hahn who has the keys to the Berlaymont while everyone else is on a (socially distanced, mask-wearing, pass-the-hand-gel) beach. And Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi must have annoyed Ursula von der Leyen (potentially by the dint of being Hungarian) as he’s got the Christmas shift this year and again in 2023.

Várhelyi wants to swap but there’s little chance of Lithuania’s Virginijus Sinkevičius offering to step in as the youngest commissioner is very much looking forward to Santa coming.

Declassified would like to suggest a change to the Commission’s rules: Allow a Belgian — any Belgian — to take the reins so all the commissioners can have a long summer break.

There’s an obvious candidate: Jean-Claude Van Damme. The Muscles from Brussels would be ideal as the Commission’s summer stand-in. He’s popular, he’s bilingual, and you can even give the security staff time off as he’s hard as nails!

He’s even got experience in a similar role, having starred in “Second In Command,” in which he played the second in command (obviously) at the US embassy in “Moldavia.” So he could even sort out enlargement before the second half of August.

There is one problem, however: In 2011, he went to a birthday party for Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader, gnome impersonator and human rights abuser.

Anyhow, the whole scheme might now be off. This week came the news of a massive jewel heist in Paris, which was shocking for two reasons: One, a suspect made his getaway on an electric scooter (a decision that made robbing a store the second worst thing he did that day); and two (and I quote directly from the Guardian because this can’t be improved upon), “potential witnesses at a nearby cafe told Le Parisien they saw and heard nothing. Many were reportedly distracted by the presence of one-time screen hard man and martial arts specialist Jean-Claude Van Damme at the nearby opticians.”

First of all, “one-time screen hard man” is a harsh description of a man who (checks Wikipedia) stars in the action-comedy “The Last Mercenary,” out Friday! And second, if Van Damme’s eyesight is failing, would that prevent him from taking on this important new role?

More on this important development as we get it.

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Can you do better? Email pdallison@politico.eu or on Twitter @pdallisonesque

Last week we gave you this photo:

Thanks for all the entries. Here’s the best from our postbag (there’s no prize except for the gift of laughter, which I think we can all agree is far more valuable than cash or booze).

“And now the prime minister, from his summer residence in Barnard Castle,” by Mike Rogers.

Paul Dallison is POLITICO‘s slot news editor.

Source : Politico EU More   

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